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Eleazar Wheelock, letter, to Moses Peck, 1761 March 25

ms-number: 761225

abstract: Wheelock thanks Peck for the money sent for Occom, and gives an account of Occom’s work since leaving Wheelock’s school.

handwriting: Informal handwriting is mostly clear and legible.

paper: Large single sheet is in good-to-fair condition, with light-to-moderate staining, creasing and wear.

ink: Brown-black.

noteworthy: This letter is written in response to manuscript 761108. It is possibly a copy or draft.

events: Occom's First Mission to the Oneidas, Occom's Mission to the Montauketts, Occom's Marriage


Modernized Version -- deletions removed; additions added in; modern spelling and capitalization added; unfamiliar abbreviations expanded.



My Dear Sir,
Yours of January 8th enclosing £3.16.0
for the relief of Mr. Occom, was delivered into my
Hand by Col. Huntington of Norwich on the
24th of February I was much affected with the con
‐tents. My Soul blessed those charitable persons who
made the Collection and dont desire their right
Hand should know it. It is Bread cast upon the
water, not lost but sent to him whose Mercy
will find them out. I have wrote Mr. Occom
an account of it. and expect him over soon
to make provision for his designed journey to
The Oneida Indians (to whom he is going as a
missionary this Spring), when I expect An Opportunity
to deliver the Same to him. and I doubt not
he will receive it with much Gratitude.
And as to his circumstances. I hope if the Small
Pox dont discourage me, to see you this Spring,
when I may give you a more Full account and therefore
for the present shall only hint. That about 11, or 12
years ago he left me in compliance with the very
pressing Importunity of Rev. Mr. Horton who was
Missionary to the Indians at Montauk — he went
among them at a Time when they were in very great
confusion by reason of Exhorters who had sowed dis‐
cord among them — Mr. Occom took the school and
supplied them as a public Teacher in Mr. Hortons
absence or when he was visiting in Other parts of the
Island
which was about 4. fifths of the Time by the
blessing of God on Mr Occom's Prudence and Labour the confusion subsided. he
had at first Something done for him by the Inhabitants
of the Island. and £20. annually allowed him by
the Honourable Commissioners for Indian Affairs his help from
his Neighbours soon failed and he has but Little
Since
Letter to Mr. Moses Peck. 1761:
Thanks for Mr. Occoms Donation
March since besides the £20 His public Character and
Situation and business have Exposed him to much
company of both English and Indians. He married
one of his Pupils about 9. or 10. years ago. And
has 6 children. his eldest son has been about
a year in my School. Mr. Occom has been necessi‐
tated to improve all his leisure Hours in hard
Labour to support his family. he dresses decent
‐ly. but is very frugal in his manner of Living.
he looks to be almost worn out with hard labour
— It grieves me to the Heart that his abilities
are so much Starved for want of support and a
Library and he in such a measure thrown away
God has honoured him to be the instrument of a
great deal of Good . And I have reason to
think of Saving good to a considerable Number
he had a Joyful harvest there about 4 years ago in which
as I am informed by Such as are to be depended upon, were
In a Judgment of national Charity not less than 14. converted
The Indians are very poor and not able to do much for him
nor So well instructed in their Duty in that regard as they
should be, and it is Difficult for Mr. Occom to instruct them in it
without Prejudice to the Gospel. now in its Infancy among
them. please to give my Love to those who had a Hand
in the contribution for Mr. Occom if you know who
they are. My Indian Boys behave very well and make
good progress in their Learning.

please to accept the kindest salutat‐
tions to you and your dear Spouse from me my wife, my son
and all my Family. and Remember when you get near to
God.
Your very Affectionate Friend
 and Humble Servant
Eleazar Wheelock
Mr. Moses Peck
Wheelock, Eleazar

Eleazar Wheelock was a New Light Congregationalist minister who founded Dartmouth College. He was born into a very typical Congregationalist family, and began studying at Yale in 1729, where he fell in with the emerging New Light clique. The evangelical network that he built in college propelled him to fame as an itinerant minister during the First Great Awakening and gave him many of the contacts that he later drew on to support his charity school for Native Americans. Wheelock’s time as an itinerant minister indirectly brought about his charity school. When the Colony of Connecticut retroactively punished itinerant preaching in 1743, Wheelock was among those who lost his salary. Thus, in 1743, he began operating a grammar school to support himself. He was joined that December by Samson Occom, a Mohegan Indian, who sought out an education in hopes of becoming a teacher among his people. Occom’s academic success inspired Wheelock to train Native Americans as missionaries. To that end, he opened Moor’s Indian Charity School in 1754 (where he continued to train Anglo-American students who paid their own way as well as students who functionally indentured themselves to Wheelock as missionaries in exchange for an education). Between 1754 and 1769, when he relocated to New Hampshire, Wheelock trained approximately 60 male and female Native American students from nearby Algonquian tribes and from the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) of central New York. At the same time, he navigated the complicated politics of missionary societies by setting up his own board of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge, although he continued to feud with the Boston Board of the SSPCK and the London Commissioners in Boston (more colloquially called the New England Company). By the late 1760s, Wheelock had become disillusioned with the idea of Native American education. He was increasingly convinced that educating Native Americans was futile (several of his students had failed to conform to his confusing and contradictory standards), and, in late 1768, he lost his connection to the Haudenosaunee. With his inclination and ability to sponsor Native American missionaries largely depleted, Wheelock sought instead to fulfill his ultimate ambition of obtaining a charter and opening a college, which he did in 1769. To fund this new enterprise, Wheelock drew on the £12,000 that Samson Occom had raised for Moor’s Indian Charity School during a two-and-a-half year tour of Great Britain (1765 to 1768). Much of this money went towards clearing land and erecting buildings in New Hampshire for the Charity School’s relocation — infrastructure that also happened to benefit Dartmouth. Many of Wheelock’s contemporaries were outraged by what they saw as misuse of the money, as it was clear that Dartmouth College was not intended for Indians and that Moor’s had become a side project. Although Wheelock tried to maintain at least some commitment to Native American education by recruiting students from Canadian communities, the move did a great deal of damage to his public image. The last decade of Wheelock’s life was not easy. In addition to the problems of trying to set up a college far away from any Anglo-American urban center, Wheelock experienced the loss of relationships with two of his most famous and successful students, Samson Occom and Samuel Kirkland (an Anglo-American protégé). He also went into debt for Dartmouth College, especially after the fund raised in Britain was exhausted.

Peck, Moses

Watchmaker Moses Peck took collections for Occom, and Wheelock had an account with him that involved shipping items to Lebanon and debits/credits for funding Occom. It is possible that Peck was Occom’s credit source in Boston. He was enthusiastic about and involved in the Indian education mission, and offered Wheelock advice about how to deal with Anglicans. Wheelock had Peck print his brief defense of Occom to counter the London Society’s rumors. Peck paid to send his son Elijah to school with Wheelock, although Elijah eventually failed his graduation examinations.

Occom, Samson

Samson Occom was a Mohegan leader and ordained Presbyterian minister. Occom began his public career in 1742, when he was chosen as a tribal counselor to Ben Uncas II. The following year, he sought out Eleazar Wheelock, a young Anglo-American minister in Lebanon, CT, in hopes of obtaining some education and becoming a teacher at Mohegan. Wheelock agreed to take on Occom as a student, and though Occom had anticipated staying for a few weeks or months, he remained with Wheelock for four years. Occom’s academic success inspired Wheelock to open Moor’s Indian Charity School in 1754, a project which gave him the financial and political capital to establish Dartmouth College in 1769. After his time with Wheelock, Occom embarked on a 12-year mission to the Montauk of Long Island (1749-1761). He married a Montauk woman, Mary Fowler, and served as both teacher and missionary to the Montauk and nearby Shinnecock, although he was grievously underpaid for his services. Occom conducted two brief missions to the Oneida in 1761 and 1762 before embarking on one of the defining journeys of his career: a fundraising tour of Great Britain that lasted from 1765 to 1768. During this journey, undertaken on behalf of Moor’s Indian Charity School, Occom raised £12,000 (an enormous and unanticpated amount that translates roughly to more than two-million dollars), and won wide acclaim for his preaching and comportment. Upon his return to Mohegan in 1768, Occom discovered that Wheelock had failed to adequately care for his family while he was gone. Additionally, despite the vast sums of money that he had raised, Occom found himself unemployed. Wheelock tried to find Occom a missionary position, but Occom was in poor health and disinclined to leave his family again after seeing the treatment with which they had met while he was in Britain. Occom and Wheelock’s relationship continued to sour as it became apparent to Occom that the money he had labored to raise would be going towards infrastructure at Dartmouth College, Wheelock’s new project, rather than the education of Native Americans. After the dissolution of his relationship with Wheelock, Occom became increasingly focused on the needs of the Mohegan community and increasingly vocal in criticizing Anglo-Americans’ un-Christian treatment of Native Americans. In September of 1772, he delivered his famous “Sermon on the Execution of Moses Paul,” which took Anglo-American spiritual hypocrisy as one of its major themes, and which went into four printings before the end of the year. In 1773, Occom became further disillusioned when the Mason Land Case was decided in favor of the Colony of Connecticut. The details of the Mason Case are complicated, but to summarize: the Colony of Connecticut had gained control of Mohegan land early in the 18th century under very suspect circumstances, and successfully fended off the Mohegan’s 70-year-long legal challenge. The conclusion of the case came as a blow to the Mohegans, and further convinced Occom of Anglo-American corruption. Along with David Fowler (Montauk Tribe), Occom's brother-in-law, and Joseph Johnson (Mohegan), Occom's son-in-law, Occom helped found Brothertown, an Indian tribe formed from the Christian Mohegans, Pequots, Narragansetts, Montauks, Tunxis, and Niantics. They eventually settled in Oneida country in upstate New York. Occom moved there with his family in 1789, spending the remaining years of his life serving as a minster to the Brothertown, Stockbridge, and Mohegan Indians. Harried by corrupt land agents, the Brothertown and Stockbridge groups relocated to the eastern shore of Lake Winnebago, though Occom died in 1792 before he could remove himself and his family there. Occom's writings and legacy have made him one of the best known and most eminent Native Americans of the 18th century and beyond.

Huntington, Hezekiah

Hezekiah Huntington, Eleazar Wheelock’s uncle, was a wealthy merchant and public figure in Norwich, CT. He was very involved in civic and religious affairs: in addition to serving as a lieutenant colonel in the Connecticut militia, he was the deacon of the First Congregational Church of Norwich (1737-1773), a member of Connecticut’s Council (1740-1743 and 1748-1773), and a judge on various local and regional courts. He was also a devoted New Light; in fact, the most significant break in his public service (he was not a member of the CT Council between 1743 and 1748) has been attributed Connecticut’s crackdown on evangelical activity in 1742 and 1743. Col. Huntington had a long-lasting relationship with Wheelock. During the Great Awakening, he helped Wheelock find preaching opportunities. He later provided his nephew with mercantile services and personal advice. Col. Huntington died unexpectedly in 1773, while sitting in court in New London.

Horton, Azariah

Azariah Horton was an Anglo-American missionary who conducted a 10-year mission (1741-1751) to the Montauketts and Shinnecocks of Long Island before being replaced by Samson Occom in 1750. After graduating from Yale in 1735 and briefly preaching in Turkey, NJ, Horton was ordained and commissioned by the New York (later New Jersey) Board of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge (SSPCK) to serve as a missionary on Long Island. His territory was extensive: in addition to the Montauketts and the Shinnecocks, Horton ministered to Indian tribes on the Wyoming and Delaware rivers where the Brainerd brothers were later quite successful. Horton kept a diary during the first three years of his mission (1741-1744) in which he records his extensive travels between sites. By the late 1740s, however, he was residing solely at Shinnecock and spending almost all of his time there. Perhaps his health had decayed and he was unable to travel, or perhaps he had simply given up on his mission (the sources are unclear). Whatever the cause, his neglect left the Montauketts ripe for Samson Occom’s missionary efforts. Horton encouraged Occom’s ministry, and the two stayed in contact (Occom visited him at least once, in 1760). However, when Horton retired, the SSPCK retired his mission with him. They believed that it was a fairly fruitless enterprise, which is likely at least part of the reason why they were disinclined to pay Occom for his efforts. After leaving Montauk, Horton became the pastor at Bottle Hill, NJ (sometimes described as South Hanover). He retired of his own volition in October 1776 and moved to live with his son in Chatham, NJ, where he died in 1777 after being exposed to smallpox while ministering to the dead and dying in George Washington’s army.

Occom, Mary (née Fowler)

Mary Occom (née Fowler) was a Montaukett woman who married Samson Occom. Although information about her is limited and often comes from male, Anglo-American sources, it offers a tantalizing glimpse of her strength, as well as an alternative to the Eleazar Wheelock-centered narrative of Occom’s life that often dominates the latter’s biography. Mary was born into the influential Fowler family at Montauk, Long Island. She met Samson during his missionary service there (1749-1761). Mary studied at Samson’s school along with her brothers David and Jacob, and was almost certainly literate. She and Samson married in 1751. Wheelock and several other Anglo-American powers opposed their union because they worried it might distract Occom from being a missionary (as, indeed, family life did), and thus many scholars have read in Samson and Mary’s marriage an act of resistance against Samson’s domineering former teacher. Little information about the minutiae of Mary’s life survives, but existing sources speak volumes about her character and priorities. In front of Anglo-American missionaries visiting the Occoms' English-style house at Mohegan, Mary would insist on wearing Montaukett garb and, when Samson spoke to her in English, she would only reply in Montaukett, despite the fact that she was fluent in English. Mary Occom was, in many ways, Wheelock’s worst fear: that his carefully groomed male students would marry un-Anglicized Indian women. It is not a stretch to imagine that Mary provided much of the incentive for Wheelock to begin taking Indian girls into his school, lest his other protégés replicate Samson’s choice. Much of our information about Mary comes from between 1765 and 1768, when Samson was fundraising in Great Britain. Despite promising to care for Samson’s wife and family (at the time they had seven children), Wheelock, by every objective measure, failed to do so, and Mary’s complaints are well documented. Hilary Wyss reads in Wheelock’s neglect (and in letters from the time) a more sinister story, and concludes that on some level Wheelock was holding Samson’s family hostage, in return for Occom curtailing his political beliefs on the Mason Case. Wyss also notes Mary’s remarkable survivance in this situation. Mary drew on various modes of contact, from letters to verbal communication with influential women (including Sarah Whitaker, the wife of Samson’s traveling companion, and Wheelock’s own daughters), to shame Wheelock into action and demand what she needed. One of the major struggles in Mary’s life, and in Samson’s, was with their sons. Both Aaron and Benoni failed to live up to their parents’ expectations. Aaron attended, and left, Moor’s Indian Charity School three times, and both Aaron and Benoni struggled with alcohol and refused to settle down. The Occom daughters did not cause similar problems. Given the nature of existing sources, little is known about Mary after Samson and Wheelock lessened their communication in 1771. Joanna Brooks has conjectured that Mary was likely influential in Samson’s Mohegan community involvement later in life, for instance, in his continued ministry to Mohegan and, perhaps, his increasingly vehement rejection of Anglo-American colonial practices.

Occom, Aaron

Aaron Occom was Samson and Mary Occom’s prodigal second child and oldest son. He was born in 1753, during Samson’s mission to the Montauketts of Long Island. The Occoms entered Aaron in Moor’s Indian Charity School when he was seven, in the hope that he would “be Brought up.” However, Aaron proved ill-suited to school, and returned home in October 1761. He had two more brief stints at Moor’s Indian Charity School: the first in December 1765, after Samson departed for his two-and-a-half-year fundraising tour of Great Britain, and the second in November 1766, when Mary found herself unable to control Aaron’s wild behavior (which included attempting to run away with “a very bad girl” and forging store orders in Mary’s name). After his last enrollment at Moor’s, Aaron ran away to sea. He had returned to Mohegan by November 1768, and at age 18, he married Ann Robin. Aaron died in 1771, leaving a son also named Aaron. Samson periodically entertained the idea of apprenticing Aaron to a master, but never seems to have done so. One letter written by Aaron survives: an epistle to Joseph Johnson, another young Mohegan who studied at Moor’s.

Peck, Elizabeth (née Townsend)
Wheelock, Mary (née Brinsmead)

Mary Wheelock was born Mary Brinsmead on July 26, 1714 in Milford, Connecticut. In the year following the death of his first wife, Eleazar began to court Mary Brinsmead, and the two married on November 21, 1747. Mary and Eleazar had five children together, including John, who would succeed his father as President of Dartmouth College. Little appears in the historical record about Mary, but many of the people who wrote to Wheelock, especially his Native correspondents who often lived with the family, referred to her warmly. In September 1770, Mary dismantled her longtime home in Connecticut, and travelled with her children to the Wheelocks' new home in the wilderness of New Hampshire. They rode in a coach sent over from England by John Thornton, accompanied by 30 Charity School students on foot. Eleazar, who had gone ahead to build housing for everyone, wrote a letter to Mary with many instructions about the move; the disposition of domestic animals, people, supplies; and the acquisition of money that suggests she was an able and trustworthy manager (manuscript 770510.1; this manuscript is not included in Occom Circle documents). She died in 1784 in Hanover, New Hampshire, where she is buried in the Dartmouth College Cemetery.

Wheelock, Rodulphus

Ralph Rodulphus Wheelock was Wheelock's oldest son and heir apparent. While Wheelock believed that Ralph showed great aptitude for the "Indian business," others saw Ralph as arrogant and abrasive. He also suffered from epilepsy, which seriously impeded his ability to work. He died in Hanover as an invalid under almost constant care and guardianship. Wheelock's struggle to accept his son's illness and his son's struggle to overcome it provide an undercurrent for some of the stranger events in the history of Moor's Indian Charity School and Dartmouth College. Ralph grew up surrounded by and dedicated to Indian education, but also with an inflated sense of Wheelock's, and his own, importance, which stayed with him for much of his life. Joseph Brant recounts a telling anecdote: Ralph once ordered William Major, Sir William Johnson's son, to saddle his horse on the grounds that he was the son of a gentleman and William Major was not. Ralph was unable to finish coursework at the College of New Jersey, which he attended from 1761-1763, although he graduated from Yale in 1765. He made three tours of the Six Nations (in 1766, 1767, and 1768), assisting ministers in bringing back children and negotiating with tribes. He taught at Moor's for two years, and was briefly considered as a companion for Occom on the Fundraising Tour. Wheelock formally named him as his heir in the 1768 draft of his will. However, Wheelock's reliance on Ralph brought disastrous consequences for the school. In the spring of 1768, Wheelock sent Ralph to the Onondagas and Oneidas to negotiate about schoolmasters and missionaries. Once there, Ralph managed to offend the assembled chiefs beyond repair. Ralph blamed his failure on Kirkland, and it was not until 1772 that Wheelock learned the truth of the matter. It is likely that Ralph's conduct influenced the Oneidas' decision to pull their children out of Moor's later in 1768: Wheelock himself implied as much in his 1771 Journal. By the early 1770s, Wheelock had realized that Ralph was never going to take over Dartmouth College. In a later will, Wheelock provided Ralph with £50 per annum for his care, to be paid out by the College, and stipulated that his other heirs should look after his oldest son. Because Ralph was unable to serve as Wheelock's heir, the presidency of the College passed to John Wheelock, a soldier who had no theological training or desire to run a college.

Occom's First Mission to the Oneidas
Occom's Mission to the Montauketts
Occom's Marriage
HomeEleazar Wheelock, letter, to Moses Peck, 1761 March 25
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